Just last week, a video of a father ‘disciplining’ his child with slaps emerged. Some went on to assert that the slaps were worth the supposedly $21,000 paid in fee for the boy. This video got me thinking about the subject of parenting in Africa and I would love to read from you, your thoughts on disciplining a child after you finish reading this article *smiles*
This video inspired my quest to ask people how they were disciplined while growing up and some of the stories are horrifying. What some have come to accept as discipline especially in Nigeria, in my opinion, is child abuse. Here is one such horrifying experience of a child in a city like Abuja where you would think that parents are exposed and should do better. Let’s name her Ra. Ra was one evening sent on an errand to buy some items for the house. Like every child, you play a bit on errands until your parents instil some kind of fear that makes you stop playing. Ra played a bit as she went on the errand, she delayed and came back home not with the complete items she was sent to buy. What her mother did next was shocking.
Her mother got so mad that she rubbed chilly in Ra’s eyes and was going inside the room to get more chilly which according to her, her mum was going to rub that in her private part. In that state of fear, Ra took off as fast as she could to her aunt’s place where she stayed for some time. Like most adults who don’t see the reason to apologize to their kids when they have done something wrong, Ra’s mother never said sorry to her when she came to get her back to the house. Stories of parents, using flat irons on their kids, beating them with hangers, sending their kids to prison amongst many other weird forms of disciplines abound.
Any parent will be pained when a child comes back home with poor grades as a result of missing their exams after paying fees that they laboured hard to accumulate. However, the way you discipline a child has far-reaching effects. Other parents may not be as harsh as Ra’s mum some parents don’t even hit their kids but the kinds of words they use on their kids make the children question if truly their parents are their biological parents. Emotional abuse as a form of discipline is also bad.
You may wonder why I am writing about parenting when the majority of people that read my blogs are not parents. Well, you are not parents yet but we can’t afford to fail the generation coming after us, our children. As much as theoretical knowledge about parenting from reading books and attending training can’t be equated to parenting in practice, you must be aware of these issues and be intentional with parenting when you get to that stage.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to the subject of parenting and until you understand this and are ready to commit to handling the uniqueness of each child, you have no business parenting. In the case of the boy slapped by the dad, I doubt it ever crossed the mind of the father to inquire if the child is dyslexic or in the case of Ra, whether the punishment (abuse) was the right way to correct her for forgetting to buy the complete items.
While each child is unique, you must be careful not to show favouritism and cause unnecessary tension among siblings. My parents were about to make the mistake of having me as a favourite with special treatment but I thank God for wisdom and awareness as a child to correct them sometimes directly and other times indirectly. As parents, our job is to teach our kids to behave while also helping them thrive. It requires patients and takes time. Discipline in love but do not abuse the child verbally or physically. Talk and engage the child to understand their point of view before jumping to a conclusion of what type of discipline to administer. Also, ensure as parents, you not only tell them how to behave but also be an example for them to see. Reward good behaviour. Take away some privilege once in a while. Spanking is not the way as it makes the child become aggressive and think its ok to physically hurt someone you love. It falls on our generation to do better. Our parents brought us up with the best information they had available to them at the time but we cannot afford to repeat their mistakes knowing well that most of what our parents called discipline was abuse and that is very wrong. We can’t fail our children a second time and make them resent us in future. You can discipline your child without hurting them physically or emotionally.